A friend of Hard Going who’s called Simply Rational has many hard questions when it comes to the Sacred and the imperium. As usual, he unerringly puts his finger on some real difficulties and asks some very awkward questions.
Dying leaves of flag iris
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Sacredness in a corporate world
SR: You talk about the Sacred and the imperium. You say that the Sacred impinges on the individual, that it works through the relationship of the Sacred to the individual. On the other hand the imperium works through the ‘powers of the world’, the corporate entity, whether that is the state, or some other body or organization which has power over a person. My question is, how can the individual retain his sacredness in a world where he owes allegiance to the powers of the world, for example, the state of which he or she is a member, or maybe the firm for which she works?

War makes murder legal
HG: You’ve put your finger on a very real issue. Does our loyalty to the Sacred, to God , come before our loyalty to one’s country, to one’s employer, to one’s church? These are all expressions of the imperium. In the world of today, where everything is entangled, how can we still be ethical? Is such a thing at all possible? You mentioned the state, and that is very relevant. If your country goes to war with another country, it makes murder legal. It tells you to kill someone made in the image of the Sacred, someone you don’t even know. You are killing your brother or you could be killing a Christ-like person. You could be killing someone who, if you knew him, could be your dearest friend.
SR: It’s a fearful thought, especially if you believe in God, as you say you do. It places the question of individual freedom and responsibility before God and your social responsibility in high relief.
Opium poppy with fringe
(Photo: Scott Murray)
The notion of a ‘just war’
HG: What do mean, ‘social responsibility’?
SR: I was thinking in particular of the notion of the ‘just war.’ The war against the Nazis is often taken as a prime example. Many would say that that war was justified. It was right to stand up to Hitler and his abhorrent ideology. Many would argue that one has to stand up to evil. Hitler was a moral agent who because of his freedom as agent decided to do evil things. What can we do but stand up to such a monster with our own act of free will and destroy him? He stands for one set of values, we for another.
HG: You’ve put that very well. It appears that such a war has to be fought, even though many Sacred brothers would murder each other in the process? Yet many of the soldiers in the Heer, the land forces of the Wehrmacht, were innocent young lads, not in the least interested in ideology. The same can be said for Allied soldiers.

Refusing to kill or pie in the sky
SR: Exactly, they were innocent. Certainly, they weren’t interested in ideology, but most of them had no idea of the Sacred either. They were just doing what they thought was their duty.
HG: But if there was a soldier who was aware of the Sacred nature of the brother he was going to kill, should he refuse to do so because of his personal beliefs? Personally, I believe he must. My contention is that the only way war can be avoided is if the majority of soldiers on both sides become aware of the Sacred, that everyone is made in the image of God. If that were to happen the majority would refuse to fight and there would be no more war.
SR: That is pie in the sky. Pure idealism. Most people don’t have a clue about the Sacred or their relation to the Sacred and, to be honest, most people don’t care. They just live day to day and never think about these things, until a war breaks out and they become involved themselves.

Opium poppy
(Photo: Scott Murray)

A robot or an agent with free will
HG: But does that excuse them? Surely we have to think of a way of stopping war and the only way I can think of is if the populace of two countries who are squaring up to each other refused to fight. With the world-wide web these ideas are easier to spread. They might catch on.
SR: Not a chance. What you call the imperium, in this case the power-brokers, the military-industrial complex and politicians would find a way round it. There would always be the limited number willing to fly the planes and man the ships and the guns and fire the rockets and kill the ‘enemy.’
HG: Perhaps you’re right, but the basic fact remains that the human being is an agent with free will to choose between what is right and wrong. God didn’t make him or her a mere robot or automaton. Unlike a computer, we have awareness of our awareness. We know that we know in an infinite regress, which appears to be an essential part of consciousness.
SR: Free will, ah! that’s a topic for another day.